None of this should cause surprise in a culture where the individual will is sovereign and the question people usually ask about a course of action is ”˜What’s in it for me?’ It was this moral climate that helped to cause the banking crisis. It is also a major factor behind the disillusion with politics that had already assumed alarming proportions before the row over expenses. Politicians of a past generation advocated policies they believed were right because they were rooted in a vision of what they thought was best for society. This was obviously true of such people on the left as R.H Tawney, but it was also true of a figure on the right like Margaret Thatcher who passionately believed in ”˜Victorian values’ and the virtues of self help. It was once said that the Labour Party was a moral crusade or nothing. In an age of spin and triangulation, when policies are chosen after listening to focus groups and after a good deal of political calculation, it is hard to see any party as a moral crusade.
Churches have difficulty in addressing this situation because of their own problems. The Catholic Church has been badly damaged by the abuse scandal while the Church of England appears to the population in general hopelessly divided over sexuality. Secularist propaganda has led many to believe that religion is a more a source of bigotry and conflict than of profound moral guidance.
But in its hey day Christianity in Britain inspired all the major parties. Methodism had more influence on the Labour Party than Marxism, non-conformity and the Liberal Party were closely linked, and the ”˜one nation’ conservatism of Harold Macmillan and Rab Butler was shaped by their Anglican faith. Macmillan remained a practising Anglo-Catholic to the end of his life.